Eastern Kentucky coach Dean Hood noticed in the spring that transfer defensive end Noah Spence was going to present management challenges.
Spence arrived in January from Ohio State after being declared ineligible by the Big Ten after two positive tests for the street drug Ecstasy. That was something Hood and his staff could monitor through testing, and the coach said there has been no problem.
The management challenge was on the field. Spence was once a five-star prospect out of Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg, one of the prizes of Urban Meyer's first recruiting class at Ohio State in 2012. Suddenly this past spring, he was practicing against players on a far lower talent level.
"In fact, we've got an offensive tackle that's back who was first team all-conference (Ohio Valley), and I had to put him on suicide watch in spring ball going against Noah," Hood said, joking. "So we don't have anybody like him that's on our team or that we're going to play."
Hood has been scheming ways "like a mad scientist" to keep Spence — who had 14.5 tackles for loss, including an OSU-leading eight sacks as a sophomore in 2013 — from gaining too much blocking attention from opponents by shifting him around the formation.
"So really I've had to remind myself a few times, 'Hey, that's too much, you need to stop there, keep it simple, and let the kid play,'" Hood said.
That's why Spence transferred to the Football Championship Subdivision team, so he could play immediately. Having been permanently suspended after the second failed test late last summer, Spence considered applying for the 2015 NFL draft. He and his family decided he needed another season of college play to mature. With that in mind, Meyer got in touch with Hood, a childhood friend from Ashtabula, Ohio.
"Urban called me wanting to help (Spence)," Hood said. "That speaks volumes for him, his family, what coach Meyer thinks about him as a person. Made mistakes? Absolutely. But the coach thought that he would be a kid that would really relish a second chance, and deserved a second chance, and is a good kid, a good student."
Spence's new start hit a rough spot when he was arrested in late May in Richmond, Kentucky, and charged with public intoxication and second-degree disorderly conduct.
Hood said last week he thought Spence's situation was "blown up (publicity-wise) because of who he is in a small town." The coach added he had another player do something similar that went unreported by the media.
Nevertheless, Spence is no ordinary case. Hood said he has undergone drug counseling sessions and has passed every drug test and is obligated to take every one without question.
"He's got all A's and B's (in classes)," Hood said. " He's going to graduate in the fall."
He gained a second chance with a clean slate, though there is an asterisk.
"It's a forgive but not forget (situation)," Hood said. "And let's be wise by how we structure things."